24 November 2014

Brooks PureGrit 3 Shoe Review


Over the last few years there seems to have developed a dichotomy within running shoes. There are traditionals and minimalists. Without getting too much into the debate, there are generally two, sometimes awkwardly heated, schools of thought. Those in favour of minimalist shoes believe in the the promotion of the more natural and efficient running form that being barefoot would promote. Lines like the New Balance Minimus and the cultist Vibram Fivefingers, encourage proper form by forcing more mid-forefoot striking and by allowing greater flex and movement. Running barefoot is thought to be the best way to learn how to run properly and thus move smoother, faster and with less injuries.

Screenshot 2014-11-24 at 8.12.16 PM.png
Traditional running shoes, such as the Asics Kayano or Brooks Adrenaline ranges, are founded upon reducing shock and stabilising the foot in optimal positions. While flexibility and reducing weight iare important factors, the reality is that all of the foams, glues, fabrics, rubbers and plastics make traditional shoes heavier, stiffer and, generally more cumbersome for runners. Another main aspect of traditionals is the large drop, which is the difference in thickness of the midsole from heel to toe. Generally, the midsole under the heel is much thicker than that of the toe - usually 10-14mm thicker, to allow for minimal shock when the heel strikes the ground. Of course, without the plush padding and support that traditional shoes offer, there’s a lot more impact on the feet, bones and joints. Reality is that for those that are overweight, or are unable to (learn how to) run with proper form, minimalist shoes can lead to a lot of damage and pain.

Screenshot 2014-11-22 at 8.35.37 PM.png
So, again, the Pure project addresses this by finding an optimal balance between the two by being softer and more supporting than true barefoot runners, but lighter, more flexible and with a lower drop, allowing for a more natural foot strike than the traditional. The Pure Project consists of several models, depending on where you are on the minimalist scale. Starting at the “barely there” side is the PureDrift, the lightest, most flexible of the bunch. At the other end is my favourite running shoe for the last 2 years is the PureCadence, these fill all the criteria for a minimalist shoe (light, flexible, low drop) but still with a good amount of cushioning and support. The idea is that anything beyond this is a traditional Brooks runner. Then, there’s the PureGrit. Another Pure Project entry, but tailored for those that love the harsh, uneven, rocky, dirty and potentially wet trails. I’ve had them for about a month now and after a about 30 kms worth of off-road workouts, here’s how they’ve been going. This is my review of the Brooks PureGrit 3s.


Key Features
  1. BioMogo DNA midsole providing adaptive cushioning
  2. 4mm heel-toe drop to encourage midfoot striking and proper form
  3. Ideal Heel, rounded heel cradle for better alignment and transition
  4. Ballistic Rock Shield protecting feet from trail hazards
  5. Nav-band to wrap midfoot securely
  6. Aggressive 3D Hex lugs for maximum tread
  7. Weighs 280 grams (9.9 ounces)
  8. Suited for neutral pronators with medium to high arches

Test Conditions
  • About 4 separate sessions in a month ranging from 4 to 8 km
  • Rocks, timber steps, dirt road, bouldered trails
  • 100m elevation change per km
  • Grass running track for mile test
  • Very dry and dusty, no mud or wet work.
  • 2 years and over 1000km in the Brooks PureCadence

The first thing I noticed about the PureGrits were how much more solid and less plush they feel compared to the PureCadence. The lugs under the very rugged outsole are noticeable upon first wear -- at least for someone who hasn’t worn a trailrunner before. There is also a Rock Shield under the forefoot, which is new to these 3rd editions. The aggressive outsole, hexl lugs and Rock Shield make for an incredibly solid and convincingly protective feeling shoe. They hold up very well up on the trails. My local routes involve steep, rocky climbs combined with timber or demolished boulder steps. On impact I could feel enough to establish a sure footing with solid traction, but still was able to maintain a smooth ride with minimal shock.


One thing that I noticed wasn’t as prominent relative to the PureCadence was the heel-toe drop. Although it’s listed as a 4mm drop, the “Ideal Heel” contour isn’t as dramatic as the PureCadence, which means that the compared to the Cadence, the Grits have my heels sitting noticeably higher than my forefoot. I’m not sure if this is objectively good or bad, but I definitely feel more inclined to strike more forward in my foot in the Cadence than in the Grits. On flatter terrain, I have to be a bit more conscious not to heel-strike than I would like. That being said, there’s still plenty of that springy nature because of the encouraged midfoot landing that minimal running shoes are known for.

Speaking of bounce,  BioMogo midsole remains as a very substantial, yet middle of the range cushioning system. They’re soft, but not too soft, and focus mostly on absorbing impact and offering a smooth ride rather than being plush or bouncy. It always comes down to personal fit, but I have always scored Nike’s Zoom or Lunar systems (i.e., Pegasus, Structure, Lunargildes, etc) as too soft or bouncy to the point of feeling as my feet were wobbling on impact. BioMogo was always a bit firmer than these, but not nearly as firm as Mizuno’s Wave (i.e., Rider).
Of course, when talking about trail shoes, tread is an important factor. The 3D hex lugs, are very aggressive, though are not cut sharply like most trail treads are. Their shape is symmetrical in all directions (hexagonal) which means they do not seem to be geared toward any specific direction - forward in particular. The rubber is also very tactile indicate excellent grip. The result is a very confident landing on trails, as the lugs dig into any surface securely and with good balance. However, compared to the more traditional teeth-like treads on other runners, these don’t necessarily grab the trail and launch you forward. Perhaps this is another deliberate move to encourage proper form and more natural movement.


The upper scores well in terms of fit. I haven’t experienced any friction hot spots, and foot feels very securely wrapped and helps within the show and above the midsole as it should. Ventilation is excellent as well. I was weary of how the bottom of my feet would feel. I live in a very hot, dry-tropical climate so heat is a big concerned. This morning’s 90 minute session was in 33C or 90F, which made for a pretty exhausting hill climb, but I’m happy to say that neither breathability, moisture or temperature posed problems. I’m not entirely sold on the Nav-band however. I’m skeptical of how much a one inch strip of elastic can help lock things in place, and with the PureGrits, the band is a bit too long and bunches when I lace up. Still, the upper fits very comfortably, at worst, this band may be inaffectual.

There is one issue with the upper which I consider more significant, and that is the tongue stitching. The majority of running shoes structure the tongue of the shoe with either a centre-loop on the centre for the crossing of laces to fit through, or have the sides of the tongue attached to the upper. The purpose of either of these is to ensure the tongue stays where it should, above the centre of the foot. The PureGrit3’s don’t have this. The tongue is only attached at its base which means that it’s rather easy for the tongue to slip down to either side of the foot and shoe. For me, they slip to the lateral sides. It doesn’t seem to happen often so it’s not that big of a deal. But once or twice on each of my runs I had to stop to pull the tongue up. It’s not a major drama as it doesn’t cause pain of any kind, the materials are so soft that the foot stays securely and snugly wrapped. It doesn’t cause any pain or anything, It’s just really annoying.


One of the reasons I’ve gone so long without giving trail running a go is because I haven’t been able to find a shoe I felt comfortable with. I have always had a hard time purchasing runners that would only really be useful for the trails, and then still needing a road pair. Traditional runners have always felt too heavy, firm or stiff to make for a good road run. I never liked the idea of having shoes for trails and different shoes for roads. I’m not a competitor - I love running because of how simple it is and  how little is needed. That being said, taking the leap with a trail shoe from the Pure Project left me pleasantly surprised. I’m confident in these not just as a trail shoe, but as a road runner as well. They’re light enough and soft enough for the roads but strong enough for the woods.

At the end of the day, the PureGrit 3s make an excellent trail runner - minimalist or otherwise. In fact I would recommend these as an all-purpose general training runner rather than just for off-road trekking. They’re light enough. soft enough and offer plenty of support for road sessions, with the added bonus of protection and traction for harsh terrains full of dirt, rocks, mud and hills. If you’re in the market for one shoe that are smooth and fast enough for the roads but rugged enough for the rocks, the PureGrit 3s might be just what you’re looking for.


21 November 2014

My Success Story by Fat2FitFred

+Fred Lechuga aka +Fat2FitFred 

A little while ago +Fred Lechuga aka "Fat2FitFred" who I met on Google+ interviewed me as part of a series of "Success Stories" he's running on his website. In a nutshell, in 2007 I weighed over 270 lbs but since then I have been below 190. The full interview goes into the nitty gritty of my fitness journey, but below is perhaps the most poignant of my health philosophies.

My inspiration shelf: Marathon finishers medal,  the before and after of my weightloss journey,  the front page story of the local newspaper and the "Gutless Wonders"  feature in Men's Health Magazine
How have you fit running into your life?  How do you balance it with other priorities?
I really just try to keep it flexible. I run when I really have the urge and that's about it. Since the marathon I haven't kept up with training plans or routines. Despite the incredible amount of holidays I get as a teacher, when school is on free time is a bit scarce, which means I don't have a very regular schedule.
My wife and I are also one year into our first home, which is a tiny 70 year old cottage we're renovating and expanding. And as I said, we're a newly married couple so there's a lot of work involved in sorting out and establishing the type of home and family we want to raise, and the foundation of marriage we want to build.
So, this means I generally just run when I feel like it. This usually means early morning or night runs. I live in a pretty hot climate so doing anything in the sun for a prolonged period of time is pretty treacherous. And due to the aforementioned time constraints, flexibility is key. Sometime I go out for a 15 minutes in a moment where I'm a bit antsy and feel like putting excess energy to good use.
Click here for the rest of the interview

Thanks to +Fred Lechuga for the excellent interview opportunity and all the great fitness content and conversations. For muchmore informative, motivational and educational journeys through fitness and health head over Fat2FitFred.com

16 November 2014

Primal Living Part 5 - A typical week in exercise

Last week I provided  simple and accurate overview of what a typical week looks like for me in regards to food. In particular, the focus was on how and what I eat according to the Primal Lifestyle. As discussed at the very beginning, while nutrition is the vast majority (80%) of achieving and maintaining optimal health, there is still another 20% to account for - that portion being exercise. Now, 80:20 right away may seem counterintuitive in today's world. As important as living an active lifestyle is, modern advances in technology, leisure and work have lead to generations of increasingly sedentary lives. Once upon a time, people had to grow their own food, perform their own housework and entertain themselves. Today much of our routine involves tools, gadgets and media that automate or provide for us these actions, resulting in much less need to move.

274lb in 2007; 199lb by 2008; 185lb since 2009
In a roundabout way, perhaps this is why there is such an emphasis on time-consuming, unfun and strenuous physical activity. We spend so much time not moving that there may be some inherent guilt about how little physical activity we get and therefore convince ourselves that in order to offset this, we must subject ourselves to long and grueling workout sessions we don't enjoy. We all know these people, or may be one of them ourselves. We wake up an hour before we have to so we can drag ourselves to the gym or pound the pavement for 45 minutes we don't enjoy.

21 Day Challenge Infographic - for the whole graphic, click here
Before I go any further, if you do enjoy this. If you can wake up naturally before first light, instantly feel energised and exhilarated during your 7km run or 40 minute elliptical session, good on you. This article isn't for you. If you truly love exercise to the point where the more of it you can do the happier you are, that's amazing. There are many people however that don't. They may feel proud of themselves for having finished their workouts, but dread the time, energy and inconvenience of spending 4+ hours every week doing something they don't enjoy. Primal is for them. Primal establishes the most efficient ways to workout to achieve optimal long-term sustainable health with as little pain, effort and time possible. For more of a general background on how to excersise primally, you may want to go back to Primal Living Part 1, from  a few weeks back. This week's piece is mostly an example of what exercise looks like for me.

Move frequently at a low pace

The core of my exercise is to "move frequently at a slow pace". For me, this means walking. I walk as much and as often as is practical from a day to day basis. I live about 1km from my workplace, which results in a 15-20 minutes of walking each day. Being a highschool teacher does include a fair amount of walking as well. It's not the most active of professions (I'm not a HPE), but there is a fair bit of travelling from room to room, building to building and up and down stairs several times throughout the day. By the time work is finished, I usually get around 5,000 steps.

Yard work, parking further from the entry to a shop, taking the dog out, it all counts. 
Outside of work, I make sure to walk more throughout the evening. We have an above average sized yard so simply hand watering the plants, playing with the best dog in the world, or just doing light work can add up to a fair bit. Even staying on top of housework, such as washing, cleaning and tidying, serves as a productive way to increase activity. The key is to move. It doesn't matter that you're heartrate's not pumping, or you're not sweating (these things can help), but the most important thing is to move. Remember that one of the biggest obstacles of modern living is how automated the world has become. Once upon a time, there was just more work to do around the house and all of it required more physical activity. I've really come to appreciate the benefits of housework. hand-watering plants, trimming shrubs, mowing and raking are all incredible ways to improve your health if done regularly and frequently, and of course it's productive.

Once in a while, sprint

Once or twice a week I make sure to turn things up slightly. I do love running. I find it meditative and relaxing. A good 20-30 minute run every now and then really invigorates me. I am aware though, that I don't need to run anywhere beyond the point of enjoyment. In the past, running was my primary form of fitness. I did love it, but at increasing frequency, the enjoyment started to dwindle. Setting strict goals and benchmarks of 20, 40, 50kms a week started to tax on my time, not to mention my knees. The truth is, if I didn't genuinely enjoy running, I would stop and I wouldn't be sacrificing my health in any way. In fact, it would be easy to argue that unenjoyable, pain-pushing monotonous medium-intensity prolonged sessions of "Chronic Cardio" actually do more harm than good.

Running as fast as you can, and then walking to rest
What this means is that I limit my running to 3 times a week and usually just go once. I love a good 10km session. I get some of the best thinking I ever do during this hour and feel invigorated afterward. The truth, however is that I am finding it more stale and am now enjoying the variability in mixing it up. This week, I went on two trailruns involving some Hill climbs. Rather than road running, hilly trails include a strong mix of carefully and slowly walking down rocky paths and sprinting as fast as I could for 20 to 30 seconds whenever there was a relatively safe looking incline or set of stairs. Intervals making of various intensities is key. Even though Saturdays hike was over an hour, I only travelled 5kms which means a lot of it was walking. I definitely stopped to rest a few times as well with absolutely no guilt.

4km in 30 minutes is pretty slow, but the terrain offers all kinds of new and engaging challenges
It's taking a while for me to be OK with walking from time to time - being able to maintain a steady pace for as long as possible was always a goal of mine as a runner. However, running at faster speeds, often as fast as I can, with short rests in between has proven to be a challenge in its own right, perhaps moreso.

The view at the top is fantastic 
Lift heavy things

Two or three times a week I make sure I do something that involves lifting heavy things. Most of the time, these workouts involve bodyweight exercises. I hate weight lifting. It's purely a personal thing, but I just don't enjoy working with dumbells, barbells, kettles, heavy plates or big machines. I don't like keeping much equipment in the house (although I do own a few dumbells ranging from 5 to 10 kg), and I really don't like being in the gym. So for me, pushups, situps, squats, pullups and the dozens of variations of these exercises work best.

Pushups, squats, situps... and pullups sometimes. 
At the moment, I'm using the Runtastic suite of fitness apps for most of these workouts. two or three times a week, I go through a pushup, situp and squat workout. The apps are great. They basically organise pyramid style sets and use phone sensors to judge when you've completed the amount of reps. Each workout increases reps or sets each day. At the moment I'm approximately doing 60 pushups, situps and squats each session. It's the simplest of workouts but is definitely challenging.

Handwatering and raking leaves is a simple way increase activity. 
Also, I again try to incorporate housework into my LHT routines. Having a very old property with a lot of landscaping work needed helps, so I find myself digging, planting, levelling, and chopping a fair bit around our house. Try swinging a mattock 50 times to break up dry earth, moving cracked foundation around or chopping up branches and see how much your glutes, back, shoulders, heart and lungs feel it the next day.


Not enjoying exercise is one of the major obstacles people have with traditional workout plans. The fact that so many people in the gym, or running in the mornings need headphones - whether they are aware of it or not, they need to distract themselves from what they're doing because at the end of the day, they're not having fun. This is why play is such an important part of the Primal lifestyle. Find a game or a sport you enjoy. For me it's basketball once every couple of weeks if a game is available. For you it may be golf, swimming, hiking, soccer, softball or simply running around with your children or playing with your dog.

29 minutes of running and 22 minutes of walking doesn't sound nearly as fun as "Basketball" 
One hour of basketball, which includes the light shootarounds with my friends as we warm up and organise the game, covered about 4km of distance travelled, 5000 steps and involved all sorts of physical movements requiring balance, explosiveness, strength and agility. It doesn't have to be competitive, it just has to be something that forces you to run, jump, push, shoot, throw, catch or kick your way to a good time. Whether it's social, or a time to let off steam, there are plenty of ways to find active and fun ways to play - especially with kids, siblings or buddies around.

In sum

So, at the end of the week, my "workout plan" resembles something like:

1. Walking as much and as often as I can. The more the better.
2. Running as fast as I can a few times, maybe 6-10 times, for around 20 seconds each time, about twice a week. This week I did this during a 5km hike up a 300m hill, and again on a 4km trail run of slightly lower of an incline.
3. I had two pushup, squat and situp Runtastic sessions.
4. I played fullcourt basketball for almost an hour.

Not counting the walking, because that is integrated into every day life, the total time I spent explicitly exercising by running, hiking, and playing basketball was approximately 2.5 hours. This is far less than I would spend "training" back when I was concerned with completing half-marathons and thought running 30km a week was necessary for good health. I know plenty of people that spend an hour, to 90 minutes in the gym 4 or 5 times a week because they believe they have to in order to maintain their weight, shape, or stave off heart-disease. If you're a competitive athlete, or want to cross "finishing a marathon" off your bucketlist, that's different. I'm talking about exercising in the most efficient way possible to maintain optimal health and do so in as little time as possible. Having extra time is something pretty much everyone wishes were possible. If you're a sufferer of "chronic cardio", Primal exercise may be your answer.

Exercise doesn't have to be boring, time-consuming or painful 
Well, that just about covers my simple explanation of Primal Living. What began as a single piece explaining what the Primal Blueprint is and breaking down the grave misunderstandings of optimal health and the causes of increasing obesity, diabetes, heart-disease and deteriorating brain health over the last century, turned into 5 weeks of discussion and reflection.

I would love to continue writing about this, but the truth of the matter is I don't have the expertise required for any more depth. In a few weeks, I plan on enrolling in the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification Course, which through focused study will grant me with the knowledge and understanding needed to really implement, promote and educate on Ancestral Health, but that's looking into the future.

For now, just remember that everything we've been taught about modern western diet is rubbish. We don't need carbohydrates. Fats are important. There's nothig wrong with meat. Avoid sugar as much as possible. Eat as many fresh colourful vegetables as you can handle. Exercise doesn't need doesn't to be painful, boring or time-consuming. I've provided the basics from a very casual, testimonial perspective, but for any of the details or science behind Primal living, there are a tonne of resources at Marks Daily Apple. I also strongly recommend The Primal Blueprint by +Mark Sisson. Clearly, this book (Amazon, or Google Play, ) has changed my life and believe everyone would benefit from living according to its principles. 

Marks Daily Apple 
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think in the comments, and please spread the word.
If you want to jump back to any of the earlier parts of this Primal Living Series, I've included the links below.

10 November 2014

Primal Living Part 4 - A typical week in food

Last week in Part 3, comparisons were made between Paleo, Primal and Atkins. It's important to understand the similarities and differences between certain nutrition philosophies. I believe that the commonalities across various plans, research and ideologies can serve as validation of those principles. For example, while sentiment on legumes (+Mark Sisson, creator of the Primal Blueprint explains the issue with beans and legumes here), saturated fats and red meat may differ depending on what you're reading or who you  are talking to, you are very unlikely to find anything that advocates for sugar, highly processed, preservative loaded foods.

The Primal food pyramid according to +Mark Sisson, see MarksDailyApple, or Part 1 for more
I place an incredible amount of value in this idea. While "everything in moderation" may often apply, and although carbohydrate-rich food such as grains may have their value in small doses, reducing your intake of sugar, highly processed and preservative loaded foods as much as you possibly can, the better you will feel and the healthier in body, spirit and mind you will be.

There is no ONE Primal Lifestyle

This is the focus for this week's piece. My favourite aspect of Primal Living is the push for flexibility. As outlined last week, primal isn't a list of foods. It's a set of principles (a fantastic infographic can be found here), and although these may seem like rules, they are not as rigid, ad are instead malleable according to environment, climate, responsibilities and resources relative to each individual person. This may seem like a licence to break rules, but you have to remember that primal is built on Ancestral Health and, what worked for our ancestors thousands of years ago cannot be boiled down to one set of standards. 

A world map showing the origins of the world's indigenous peoples. There was never meant to be one rigid set of foods everyone should be eating.

The foods, levels of activity and sleep patterns varied greatly depending on region. It doesn't take much imagination to understand that the Inca people of South America probably ate differently than the Inuit native to Northern Canada, Scandinavian Vikings, Mongolian conquerors or South Pacific Islanders. All of these groups had different animals, vegetation types, temperature ranges and predators to deal with.So, although all of them had diets rich in animal meats and vegetables, and the occasional seasonal fruit, and spent very little time running at a moderate pace for prolonged periods of time, the specifics of how they lived, would have differed greatly.

This is why it's important to truly be honest and self-aware regarding what works and what doesn't. While it may be easy to use influences such as budget and time as excuses for living a less than optimally healthy life, they key is to genuinely try to make these principles work for you as much as you possibly can.

What a typical week for me looks like

I should preface all of this with a very brief rundown of my daily schedule:
  • I wake up at around 5:30 and have "breakfast" around 6:30
  • By 7:00 I’m leaving for work (which is about 1km away so I walk)
  • I arrive at my desk at around 7:15am
  • I’m a high school teacher so that involves a bit of walking from different rooms and buildings. I’m not entirely camped at a desk all day, but I’m not constantly on my feet either.
  • Lunch, which is usually my true meal of the day, usually occurs at 11am
  • I am usually anywhere between 4:30 and 5:30pm
  • Dinner is usually at 6pm
  • I try to sleep by 10pm

Most mornings I don't have anything for breakfast other than 1 or 2 cups of coffee. Once upon a time, the notion of skipping "the most important meal of the day" seemed terrifying. I thought for sure this would lead to me dying of starvation by 10am. Easily the most amazing thing I have learned from Primal is the value of fats and the destruction that carbs do in terms of providing energy in the morning. I find that if my meat and vegetables made up most or all of what I ate the night before meaning my protein and fat intake was up to scratch, I really wasn't hungry in the morning, and the coffee (with heavy pure full-of-fat cream) was more than enough until lunch time. 

I just love the inviting warmth of a smooth cup of coffee in the morning. Usually, all I have for breakfast is one cup - sometimes two at around 6:30am. Normally I don't eat until after 11am..
Earlier in the year, I tried a mini experiment on myself and monitored my hunger levels depending on my morning routine. I was literally astonished to discover that, when 10am rolled around, I was hungrier if I had cereal, toast or anything else loaded with carbs, than if I had nothing at all. Obviously, eggs and bacon (or dinner leftovers) eliminated hunger the most, but aside from just not having much time for it, I honestly started to feel full. It works, my body looks to fat for energy consumption and no longer calls for the quick boost carbs offer.  People often ask me, "how are you not starving if you skip breakfast?". To be honest, my answer is simply, "I don't know. I'm just not". Of course, I do know and try to explain , the problem is that it's apparently just too hard to believe for some people.

On days where I have an extra 20 minutes, little is better than scrambled eggs with cheddar and spinach, half an avocado and some free range local bacon rashers.
With breakfast (or lack thereof) out of the way, the rest of the day should be pretty simple to describe. Usually, lunch is the first actual meal I have for the day, and it usually occurs at 11am. I genuinely am a bit hungry by then, but not starving, and on the occasions when I end up having to delay eating another hour or so, it's not really a big deal. Contrast this with people that pound away high-carb foods like cereals, granolas, crackers, biscuits, cookies, noodles, and the like. From my observation, it's pretty common for these people to express extreme hunger even if they've just eaten maybe 2-3 hours prior. Here's an Ancestral line of thought. If our cavemen brethren need to eat something every 2-3 hours, in order to avoid feeling sluggish, headaches, and growling stomachs, would they really be able to survive their historic period?

Anyway, for lunch I usually have a salad made with cos lettuce and spinach, plus a couple of other chopped vegetables - usually cucumber, cherry tomatoes, or capsicum (Australian for red/green/yellow peppers). For protein I chuck in some canned tuna, smoked salmon, or pieces of leftover dinner meat. Dressing will be in the form of some whole-egg mayo, olive oil and various seasoning (dill, or just salt). I also always chuck in a handful of nuts. If I have leftovers from dinner, I go with that, but usually I don't have any leftovers.

A "Big Ass Man's Salad" for my first meal of the day. 11am. Lettuce, spinach, capsicum, cucumber, almonds, cheese, whole egg mayo, crushed garlic, olive oil, avocado, smoked salmon. The 600ml water bottle is just there for perspective.
Dinner will always be some form of meat and vegetable combination. The usual rotation consists of:
- Steak, pork chop or chicken cutlet with boiled vegetables
- Meatballs in marinara sauce with sauteed vegetables
- Chicken and vegetable stirfry
- Steak, pork or chicken cutlet and salad

Steak, zucchini. garlic, coconut oil, butter, macadamia nuts, capsicum, silverbeet and avocado fried in a wok
You may be able to tell from that list, but I'm not much of a cook. I don't care much for hours of prep and slow cooking roasts. I've never baked anything in my life that wasn't a nacho dish that took at most, 10 minutes.

The important thing isn't how food is prepared, but the type of food we have available each meal. Our general grocery list follows the lines of:

Meat: steak, chicken wings, meatballs, chicken, bacon and pork are our primary varieties (lamb or veal are ok, but not our favourite). We go through a tonne of tuna and salmon

Vegetables: Broccoli, zucchini, carrots, spinach, lettuce, silverbeet, bok choy, cucumber, capsicum, tomatoes, avocado

Fruit: Bananas, and whatever is in season

Nuts: Almonds and macadamias

Herbs and spices: Whatever. My favourites are dill, garlic, generic barbecue, celery, basil and tumeric.

Other: cheese, pure cream, greek yoghurt, wine (I have a couple of glasses week), dark chocolate, olive oil, coconut oil

Irregular add-ons depending on tastes and sales: ice cream, nachos

Occasional garbage I have maybe once every couple weeks: McDonald's, Hawaiian Pizza, Fish n Chips

Good oil
The foundation is what matters most

As you may notice from above, I follow what is hardly, the strictest of diets.  The salient point is that Primal isn't meant to be a restrictive list but a solid foundation of principles. In general, I have  very few carbohydrates and load up on protein and fat via animal meat, plus all the colourful vegetables I can eat, and I make sure not to forget that I don't have to eat if I'm not hungry. For everything else, I roll with the punches. As far as concrete, deliberate rules go, I just try not to have carbohydrates if I don't have to. I don't step out of my comfort zone to avoid them - if it's someone's birthday, or someone just brought cake in for work I will happily share and appreciate, but given the choice, I'll opt for a salad rather than bread roll.
Taken from MarksDailyApple.com and used in Primal Living Part 2 - Ancestral Health
It may be only anecdotal, but I can personally vouch for the "Weight Loss Sweet Spot"  I discussed a while back. One thing I have done for years which may be considered pedantic is weigh myself every day - or most days. Over the years, I have learned that whenever I made a distinct effort to reduce my carb intake by holding off on pasta, rice and bread, the weight dropped even if this was all I did. I didn't need to workout at all, just swap some roasted veggies in for rice or choose not to add noodles to my stir fry, and I could be a kilo lighter after a week. The absolute foundation to all of this is to listen to your body and take stock of how it reacts to what you put in it. I started learning this long before I heard of paleo or primal, but the fact remains it was still crystal clear.

These days, I have a few years of reading, experimenting, and adapting under my belt. I look forward to registering for the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification Course, but I don't think I will ever be one for exact measurements. Nevertheless, I'm positive I stay within the Effortless Weight Maintenance zone of just over 100g of carbs per day. It make sense since I'm not putting on weight, and feeling healthier than I ever have despite working out the less than I ever have. In 2010 I ran around 70-100km a week so I could successfully complete the Gold Coast Marathon. Today, my dedicated exercise occupies maybe 3 hours a week. It may seem hard to believe, but I'm absolutely healthier, stronger, more relaxed and generally happier now than I was 5 years ago, and I have much more free time.

This just about covers what a typical week for me looks like in terms of food. Again, it's not too complicated. Next week, I will go switch gears and go over what my fitness regimen looks like. For now though, I'd love to know what you think? What is your week like? If you've been living primally yourself, how similar is your food week to mine? If this is all new to you, do these principles seem like reasonable adjustments you could make? Let me know in the comments below or on Google+.

07 November 2014

Primal Living Part 3 - Paleo, Primal and Atkins

Last week, we examined the philosophy of Primal health by comparing the awful conventional wisdom regarding health and nutrition with the more holistic and natural lifestyle which our ancestors have followed for thousands of years. Revisiting the traditional USDA endorsed Food Pyramid allowed us to identify the lunacy of a carbohydrate rich diet based on grains and sugar instead of vegetables and animal proteins. 

As we understand the importance of a low-carb, high proteins and fats based diet, it then becomes useful to compare the leading nutrition philosophies which follow these similar guidelines. This post examines the similarities and differences between Primal, and the more well-known Paleo and Atkins diets.

Paleo, Primal and Atkins

Venn Diagram comparing Paleo, Primal and Atkins
The Paleo Diet coined by Dr Loren Cordain is a much more popularised close relative of Primal. Both are built upon the principles of ancestral health and both follow the guidelines supported by evolutionary biology. Much like Primal, Paleo mandates the consumption of meat and vegetables and banishes grains, sugars, pasta, rice and anything else our ancestors would not be able to gather, prepare or process. Truth be told, if you're paleo, you're primal. Paleo is just, perhaps more focused on food and abides by a more restricted menu. There aren't really too many differences between the two, but there are some that are quite distinctive.

First, as discussed, Primal doesn't distinguish among fats to the same extent as paleo - the key being saturated fats. Primal encourages and recognise the benefits of all fats that aren't toxic transfats and industrially processed polyunsaturated oils. Primals stay away from corn, vegetable, and canola oil, but whole-heartedly endorse the brain healthy and satiating properties within saturated fats found in animals and dairy products. Paleo in comparison, strongly advise against these fats and live on lean cuts of meat only.

"Caveman health" seems to be an increasingly popular inquiry. Paleo, I believe, was the most common nutrion/diet search term in 2013 according to Google.
The other key distinction is in overall health and wellbeing. Paleo is very much just focused on food. The Primal Blueprint on the other hand, focuses on everything else that encompasses good health such as activity as discussed before. Further, living Primal also includes how you sleep, your ties to digital technology, the amount of sun you should be getting and how you spend your spare time. Where paleo (and the incredibly well-known weight-loss diet Atkins) is mostly a list of foods you can and cannot eat, Primal revolves around your entire lifestyle to help you achieve and sustain the healthiest and happiest you.

Shifting gears a bit further, we have the both broader, yet more constricted Atkins diet, officially called the Atkins Nutritional Approach. The Atkins Diet was designed by Robert Atkins and based on research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Alfred W. Pennington. While the original research dates back to the 70s, it wasn't until the early 2000s that the card-counting revolution started. 

Trying to eat as few carbohydrates as possible is, in real terms, is as far as the Atkins Diet tends to go. Aside from this, the rest of one's diet remains pretty close to the evil conventional wisdom Paleo and Primal crowds vehemently protest. Fats and sugars are bad, fibre and protein is good and a full range of foods, including grains should be taken in moderation.

The Venn diagram up top simplifies the similarities and differences between the three. As you can see, Primal and paleo are closer in similarity to Atkins. Where Atkins pretty much only focuses on carbs, and therefore limiting fruit, and ignoring the benefits of healthy fats, Primal includes them as integral parts of complete physical and metal health. Fats are needed not only for satiation, but the is very strong and convincing research linking the intake of unsaturated and saturated fats found in dairy, olive oil, coconut oil, and animal meats to resistance to brain diseases such as Alzhemer's, dimentia, autism and schizophrenia. A highly recommended reading is Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter which looks at in very specific detail the hazards grain based foods do to our mental health and the ever-increasing evidence that reducing or eliminating grains from modern diets can is preventing and repairing brain disease. 

Primal isn't only a list of foods

The greatest distinction between Primal and the other popular low-carb diets is that Primal isn't limited to just your diet. While food makes up the vast majority (80%) of what leads to a healthy and happy life, the Primal principles apply to much more than food - especially in terms of addressing, and destroying conventional wisdom. 

Where Paleo and Atkins are essentially a list of what, and what not, to eat, the Primal Blueprint includes the following, very important pillars of optimal health also known as:

The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

1. Eat let's of plants and animals
2. Avoid poisonous things
3. Move frequently at a slow pace
4. Lift heavy things
5. Sprint once in a while
6. Get adequate sleep
7. Play
8. Get adequate sunlight
9. Avoid stupid mistakes
10. Use your brain

So far, I have focused on the first five of the Laws. The significance of these components are evidenced by the fact that "what to eat and how to exercise" represent half of everything required to achieve and maintain optimal health. The second half of the list of course, involves general, yet incredibly important rules which are essential for a healthy lifestyle. Click here for an overview of the entire list by +Mark Sisson and the team at Marksdailyapple.com

It's important to remember that with most that struggle to improve their health, the most difficult thing is to sustain these achievements in the long term. Whether the plan was to lose 10kg, begin run 20km a week, weight train, sign up for crossfit, or take pirates classes, maintaining this discipline for week,s months or years is where many meet defeat. The key to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to approach health and fitness as just that, a change in lifestyle. If our goal is to fit into the jeans we wore 10 years ago, there will be an inherent mentality suggesting that once that goal is achieved, we're done and can stop doing whatever we were doing that got us to that point. We need to understand that any attempts to improve our health must be approached as a permanent change in the way we live.

Next week, I'll continue discussion on the Ten Primal Blueprint Laws. I will describe how I have integrated these laws into my lifestyle as well as the modifications I have made so that primal living suits me best. There is no one way to live primal, which is whole-heartedly accepted by the Primal Blueprint. I will also recount a typical day and week in terms of "what to eat and how to exercise", also covering the rest of the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws.